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The Life of the Vows

"Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, 6"

Thomas Merton; Edited by Patrick F. O'Connell

As novice master of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, Thomas Merton presented weekly conferences to familiarize his charges with the meaning and purpose of the vows they aspired to undertake. In this setting, he offered a thorough exposition of the theological, canonical, and above all spiritual dimensions of the vows. Merton set the vows firmly in the context of the anthropological, moral, soteriological, and ecclesial dimensions of human, Christian, and monastic life. He addressed such classical themes of Christian morality as the nature of the human person and his acts; the importance of justice in relation to the Passion of Christ, to friendship and to love; and self-surrender as the key to grace, prayer and the vowed life. Merton's words on these topics clearly spring from a committed heart and often flow with the soaring intensity of style that we have come to expect in his more enthusiastic prose. The texts of these conferences represent the longest and most systematically organized of any of numerous series of conferences that Merton presented during the decade of his mastership. They may be the most directly pastoral work Merton ever wrote. Thomas Merton (1915—1968) was a monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky. He was a renowned writer, theologian, poet, and social activist. Patrick F. O'Connell is associate professor in the departments of English and theology at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is a founding member and former president of the International Thomas Merton Society.

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Inside The Psalms

Reflections for Novices

Maureen McCabe, OCSO

The psalms are at the very heart of monastic prayer. Recited seven times a day in the liturgy and reflected upon in the mind through the day during work and lectio divina, they provide those who recite them regularly with a privileged way into continual mindfulness of God. Allowing Christians to pray as Christ prayed, the psalms form Christians in Christ, and become a vital part of the formation process, both in monastic life and in Christian living. After teaching Scripture to women in monastic formation at Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, Massachusetts, for many years, Sister Maureen McCabe shares her insights into these biblical songs with those outside the cloister. In reflecting on the psalms in an integral and sapiential way, she strives to meet novices in a way that respects both the unifying elements of the life as well as the heart’s search for a wisdom and meaning. Always in the background there is solid exegesis, but exegesis is at the service of persons who are discerning a commitment to a life wholly ordered to contemplation. Maureen McCabe entered Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey in 1972 after having taught Theology and Sacred Scripture in high school and having done graduate study in Scripture. She served as Novice Director in her community for seventeen years and continues to teach novices in Scripture and the Psalms.

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Dom Anselme Le Bail

"Abbot of Scourmont 1913-1956: A monk, an abbot, a community"

Dieudonné Dufrasne, OSB; Elizabeth Connor, OCSO, Translator

Those who knew him, above all monks, will find Dom Anselme Le Bail again in these pages with warm gratitude. Those who have not known him will encounter his vital and original character. Both of these will be surprised and come to admire a man and a monk who has integrated a healthy humanism into a concrete ideal of his religious vocation. Fr. Dieudonne Dufrasne, a Benedictine monk of Saint Andre de Clerlande, has read, listened to, and allowed the young man, Anselme Le Bail, the monk, and finally the Cistercian Abbot of Scourmont, to speak for himself in these pages. He has the ability to allow us, in turn, to hear and understand the joys and difficulties of a life totally dedicated to God and to his brothers.

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Living Wisdom

The Mission and Transmission of Monasticism

Cristiana Piccardo, OCSO

Cristiana Piccardo was the long-time abbess of an unusual Cistercian community in Italy. "We have always believed," she writes, "that the monastic charism can be a precious 'talent' offered to our contemporary world, and there are moments in history when what normally remains hidden should come into the light." These words accurately describe both the force behind the story of the Vitorchiano monastic family and the account of it given in Living Wisdom, her reflection on the meaning of that story. Over the course of four decades, the Abbey of Vitorchiano would found no fewer than six new monasteries around the world, from Argentina to Indonesia, and today this vibrant oasis of prayer and Christian living still has some eighty sisters of its own. What is the secret of such success? In a nutshell, we could say that, in the Vitorchiano perspective, the monastery is nothing other than a microcosm of the church and of human society. The book, translated from the Italian, initiates us in a most concrete way into a wisdom that seeks the kingdom of God ardently yet realistically, without ever bypassing the essential human foundations that the life in Christ transforms and elevates but never supplants: hard work, communal striving, friendship, honesty in communication, a sense of humor, and, above all, love-the willingness both to ask for forgiveness and to give it with joy.Cristiana Piccardo was born in Genova, Italy, in 1925, and in 1958 entered a monastery of Trappistine Cistercian nuns not far to the north of Rome, at Vitorchiano. In 1964 Mother Cristiana became the abbess. She left Vitorchiano to be the superior of their Venezuelan foundation from 1991 to 2002 where she currently resides.

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Pre-Benedictine Monasticism

"Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, 2"

Thomas Merton; Edited by Patrick F. O'Connell

Charged with training young monks at Gethsemani Abbey, Thomas Merton combined his literary genius and his love of the monastic tradition to produce Monastic Orientation Notes as the bases of his classes. In this volume, he treats the many and varied forms of monastic life which preceded, and helped to form, the Rule of Saint Benedict.

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Monastic Observances

"Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, 5"

Thomas Merton; Edited by Patrick F. O'Connell

In this set of novitiate conferences from the late 1950s, Thomas Merton provides a vivid and detailed introduction to the traditional pattern and practices of the monastic day during the period immediately preceding the momentous changes that would be introduced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Combining practical instruction with spiritual and theological reflection, this fifth volume of Merton's teaching notes brings the reader into the choir and chapter room, scriptorium and cloisters of the Abbey of Gethsemani, and provides insight into the ecclesial, contemplative, paschal, and Trinitarian dimensions of Cistercian life. Patrick F. O'Connell is professor in the departments of English and theology at Gannon University, Erie, Pennsylvania. A founding member and former president of the International Thomas Merton Society, he edits The Merton Seasonal and is coauthor (with William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen) of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia. He has edited four previous volumes of Thomas Merton's monastic conferences for the Monastic Wisdom series: Cassian and the Fathers; Pre-Benedictine Monasticism; An Introduction to Christian Mysticism; and The Rule of Saint Benedict.

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Words For The Journey

A Monastic Vocabulary

Edith Scholl, OCSO

In matters of religion and spirituality the simplest phrases can be the most misleading. Or, if not misleading, misunderstood. There is no doubt that this is true of the Cistercian tradition. As Sister Edith Scholl writes in the introduction to this volume: "When I started reading and studying the writings of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Cistercians years ago, I was struck by their rich vocabulary of Latin words—words rich with resonances from Scripture, the liturgy, and patristic and earlier monastic authors, words for which no exact equivalents exist in English. It seemed to me that these words could be a key to a deeper understanding of their message. . . . This study of some of the most important of them could serve as a companion to the translations being published in the Cistercian Fathers Series, enabling nonspecialists to read those translations with greater understanding and appreciation. In fact, it might prove a fruitful source for approaching the whole monastic ethos." "Sister Edith Scholl has come to our rescue. . . . She has provided us with a book, and a very sensible book it is. The words she offers us are truly words for the journey, though like any journey, they are not without risk. Offering our human will to God is an extraordinarily risky business, but we may rest assured that our prayers will be answered."      –From the Foreword by David N. Bell Sister Edith Scholl studied piano and composition at the University of Michigan, where she earned a bachelor of music degree. She entered Mount Saint Mary's Abbey in 1956. She is currently the prioress, teaches liturgy and Christian spirituality, and has written music for her community's liturgy. She has contributed articles to Hidden Springs and Peaceweavers, and an anthology of early Cistercian texts, In the School of Love (all published by Cistercian Publications).

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Passing From Self To God

A Cistercian Retreat

Robert Thomas, OCSO; Translated by Martha Krieg

Those seeking to deepen their spiritual lives by visiting monasteries rarely have enough time to absorb as much as they would like. In this book an experienced spiritual master provides an intensive directed retreat which relies heavily on the rich Cistercian spiritual tradition. Readers may read and digest at their own pace, savoring the author’s contagious enthusiasm for the monastic way and the medieval monks who formed this distinctive contemplative tradition. Robert Thomas, a monk of Sept-Fons from 1928 until his death in 2002, served as prior of his community, professor of theology and Sacred Scripture, and chaplain to Cistercian nuns. He was instrumental in translating the early Cistercian Fathers into modern languages.

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At Home With Saint Benedict

Monastery Talks

Mark A. Scott, OCSO; Foreword by Macrina Wiederkehr

At Home with Saint Benedict is a selection of the author's conferences on Saint Benedict's Rule for Monasteries delivered to the monks of Assumption Abbey of Ava, Missouri, when he was abbot there. The author's intention was simply to share with his brother monks what Saint Benedict through his sixth-century Rule might have to offer monks of the early twenty-first century. It is hoped that these conferences, published here, will now speak to men and women outside the monastic cloister. This book is a door to the chapter room of Assumption Abbey. Readers are invited to open the door, sit down with the monks and their abbot, and feel at home with Saint Benedict. Mark A. Scott, OCSO, is a monk of the Trappist-Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux, Vina, California, which he entered in 1978. From 2000 to 2008 he served as appointed superior and then abbot of Assumption Abbey, Ava, Missouri.

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I Am the Way

Stages of Prayer in Saint Bernard

Maureen McCabe, OCSO

As founding abbot of Clairvaux, Bernard's giftedness and good judgment made him an often-sought resource by both church and secular powers, and in that capacity, he was sometimes delightful and sometimes dismaying to those who encountered him.But when it comes to prayer, says Maureen F. McCabe, OCSO, Bernard can only delight. Anyone who gives him a chance will discover teachings full of unction and spiritual discernment. He draws us to continual prayer through an unshakable confidence in the One who believes in our capacity to love without limits, no matter what state we're in or stage we're at. He stirs us to continual gratitude for and reflection upon the mercies of the Lord, especially in his passion. Bernard, says Mother Maureen, is truly a father—father of the church and father of souls. In I Am the Way, she endeavors above all to allow Bernard's voice to be heard in all its resonance and penetration.Mother Maureen F. McCabe, OCSO, entered Mount Saint Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, Massachusetts, in 1972, after having taught high school theology and done graduate study in Scripture. She served as novice director in the community for seventeen years and in 2008 was elected abbess. She is the author of Inside the Psalms: Reflections for Novices also from Cistercian Publications.

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A Monastic Vision for the Twenty-First Century

Where Do We Go from Here?

Edited with a Foreword by Patrick Hart, OCSO

An ancient lifestyle which has been adapted, renewed, and is still being followed today, monasticism appears to some outside it as a quaint anachronism and to others as the sanest of all ways of living. Can it survive in the post post-modern world? A dozen insiders and outsiders—monastics, academics, clergy, laypersons, hermits, cenobites, poets, and writers—offer their reflections on the future of the monastic life of prayer and community. Contributing their insights are Michael Casey, Kathleen Norris, Lawrence Cunningham, Terrence Kardong, Bonnie Thurston, John Eudes Bamberger, Joan Chittister, Mary Margaret Funk, Gail Fitzpatrick, Francis Kline, Daniel Coughlin, Robert Morneau, Miriam Pollard, and Bernardo Olivera. Patrick Hart, OCSO, a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, did his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame as a Brother of Holy Cross. He entered the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1951, and has served as secretary to the last four abbots, as well as to Thomas Merton during the last year of his life. He has edited many books by and about Thomas Merton during the 38 years since the latter’s death on December 10, 1968. He has served on the Board of Directors for Cistercian Publications for the past 30 years, and was appointed General Editor of the new Monastic Wisdom Series following the alliance between CP and Liturgical Press at Collegeville in May of 2004. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Bellarmine University in 2004.

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Light in the Shoe Shop

A Cobbler's Contemplations

Agnes Day, OCSO

"Seldom will a reader be afforded a more intimate glance into the day-to-day experience of living the cloistered life in feminine mode than can be had from these pages. But, beyond the specificity of the monastic context, I can equally say that seldom will a reader be afforded a more intimate glance quite simply into the way a generous and listening heart comes to perceive the world after being schooled by all the joys and many sorrows of self-surrender. "This book is decidedly not just one more item in the picturesque genre of the `nun's story.' Rather, for all its slenderness, the volume bears a strong witness to the fact that a human life that stakes its all on loving will gradually become transfused with light." From the foreword by Simeon Leiva, OCSO Agnes Day was born in 1933 and grew up in the Philippines, with the exception of 1940-1944 when she was living with relatives in the United States while her parents and one sister were in the concentration camp of Santo Tom�s in Manila. They survived, the family was reunited, and, after a period of rest in the US, returned to the Philippines. When her mother became a Catholic, Agnes followed her on this path during her second year at Middlebury College. Four years later, in 1956, she entered Mount Saint Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, Massachusetts. She was prioress there for nine years, as well as vocations director, secretary to the abbess, and community cobbler. In 1986 she was elected abbess, serving the community in that capacity for twenty-two years. Since 2008, she has been happily living her Cistercian vocation once again as a simple sister.

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Monastic Observances

"Initiation into the Monastic Tradition, 5"

Thomas Merton; Edited by Patrick F. O'Connell

In this set of novitiate conferences from the late 1950s, Thomas Merton provides a vivid and detailed introduction to the traditional pattern and practices of the monastic day during the period immediately preceding the momentous changes that would be introduced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Combining practical instruction with spiritual and theological reflection, this fifth volume of Merton's teaching notes brings the reader into the choir and chapter room, scriptorium and cloisters of the Abbey of Gethsemani, and provides insight into the ecclesial, contemplative, paschal, and Trinitarian dimensions of Cistercian life. Patrick F. O'Connell is professor in the departments of English and theology at Gannon University, Erie, Pennsylvania. A founding member and former president of the International Thomas Merton Society, he edits The Merton Seasonal and is coauthor (with William H. Shannon and Christine M. Bochen) of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia. He has edited four previous volumes of Thomas Merton's monastic conferences for the Monastic Wisdom series: Cassian and the Fathers; Pre-Benedictine Monasticism; An Introduction to Christian Mysticism; and The Rule of Saint Benedict.

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Dom Anselme Le Bail

"Abbot of Scourmont 1913-1956: A monk, an abbot, a community"

Dieudonné Dufrasne, OSB; Elizabeth Connor, OCSO, Translator

Those who knew him, above all monks, will find Dom Anselme Le Bail again in these pages with warm gratitude. Those who have not known him will encounter his vital and original character. Both of these will be surprised and come to admire a man and a monk who has integrated a healthy humanism into a concrete ideal of his religious vocation. Fr. Dieudonne Dufrasne, a Benedictine monk of Saint Andre de Clerlande, has read, listened to, and allowed the young man, Anselme Le Bail, the monk, and finally the Cistercian Abbot of Scourmont, to speak for himself in these pages. He has the ability to allow us, in turn, to hear and understand the joys and difficulties of a life totally dedicated to God and to his brothers.

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Saint Bernard's Three Course Banquet

"Humility, Charity, and Contemplation in the De Gradibus"

Bernard Bonowitz, OCSO

Saint Bernard's famous work, The Steps of Humility and Pride (in Latin, De gradibus humilitatis et superbiae), is a short book consisting of a mere fifty-seven paragraphs. In it, the Abbot of Clairvaux unpacks the doctrine of the very crucial chapter 7 of Saint Benedict's sixth-century Rule for Monks, which explores the dynamic "steps" or "degrees" of both humility and pride. This chapter by Benedict could well be considered the spiritual basis of all Benedictine existence. In Saint Bernard's Three-Course Banquet, Dom Bernard Bonowitz makes the teaching of both Bernard and Benedict accessible to modern readers in a set of conferences originally conceived for and delivered to a group of Cistercian "juniors," that is, monks and nuns who had completed their novitiate but had not yet made their solemn vows. With Dom Bernard as a guide, many more readers can be sure of drinking at the purest sources of the monastic tradition, which at that depth becomes one with the Gospel itself. A convert from Judaism with a degree in Classics from Columbia University, Bernard Bonowitz was a Jesuit for nine years before entering St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Immediately upon professing vows, his abbot named him master of novices, a position he held for ten years and that gave him ample opportunity to share considerable gifts of mind and heart while initiating newcomers into monastic life, at the levels of both classroom teaching and spiritual direction. In 1996 he was elected superior of the monastery of Novo Mundo in Brazil, which he soon shepherded into a true monastic springtime. In 2008, he became abbot of Novo Mundo, now a community attracting an impressive number of young men anxious to follow the way of Cistercian discipleship.

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